The pictures I see through voices


We were on a road trip in the last week of December, on our way to New Jersey to celebrate New Year’s with family and to pay a visit to my favourite Big Apple. It was a long drive, 12.5 hours of driving time to be precise and atleast a couple of hours more for pit stops. And as usual the plan was to drive off straight through without taking a stop-over. We do such crazy things because we love it and Desh loves driving such long distances. The picturesque drives and the out-of-the-world vistas in the United States make it worthwhile too. Sometimes, the drive can get monotonous, mid-way especially and music has always been our saviour. Thankfully despite my husband being a firangi, he loves Hindi music and more often than not, songs that I haven’t ever heard, so that works beautifully for both of us.

It’s usually a fight between the two of us – whether it should be the ipod which has all my favourite songs (and some of his too) or whether CDs of yesteryears (his property!!). You know who usually wins the million dollar debate, but ofcourse we keep changing the music if one of us doesn’t appreciate the number that is playing. We were listening to the songs and enjoying the soulful music of the likes of Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Lata and Asha; when suddenly Shaan (Shantanu Mukherjee) broke into a number from Saawariya. I really like Shaan’s voice. It is different and suits a few actors like a house on fire. But more importantly, his voice started conjuring up images in my head and it kicked off a long conversation on the subject, with my beau.

Voice and the Person can be very different. A discussion on voice-picture dichotomy #Rafi… Click To Tweet

Shaan’s voice drew up a mental image of a young, chocolate-faced, smiling and cute boy in my head. Someone who would always be polite, smile at the slightest opportunity and spread happiness and cheer all around him! What luck to have a voice like that, isn’t it? Being a Mumbaikar and being a bit closely associated with Bollywood (because of the Famous recording studio close to my house, many producer/ director offices in my office building and some of my Bollywood clients), it’s a pity I haven’t met Shaan. But that didn’t stop his voice from painting a picture in my head and presenting an image that was ‘oh! so soothing.’ It’s amazing what the human mind can do. Without meeting someone, just by hearing the person’s voice, an automatic picture of that person gets sketched in our mind. Like the voice of so many singers immediately brings up the image of the actor (especially the actor on whom the voice fits like a jigsaw puzzle). For example – Kishore Kumar for Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna and the Big B, Rafi for Dilip Kumar and Shammi Kapoor, Asha Bhosle for Madhubala and Sadhana, Sunidhi Chauhan for most of the item girls doing the item number…. so on and so forth.

What is even more fascinating is how often the mental image actually matches the real image of the person when we finally land up meeting that person in flesh and blood! Ofcourse there are times when the mind conjures an image that is exactly the opposite of what the person really is and looks like. There have been times when I have met people whom I had spoken to on the phone in the past and on meeting the person the first thing I have exclaimed is, “OMG, I thought you were really huge, but look at you, petite and how?!” It’s the voice that does this to us, the tricks it plays. The mental image that it creates is out of the world.

Mental imagery – often referred to as ‘visualizing’, ‘seeing in the mind’s eye’, ‘hearing in the head’, ‘imagining the feel of’ etc., is a quasi-perceptual experience. It is generally understood to bear a lived experience. Basically mental images are always images of something or the other and hence function as a form of mental representation. Visual mental imagery was thought to be caused by the presence of picture-like representations (mental images) in the mind, soul, or brain. Very often, imagery experiences are also understood by people as echoes, copies, or reconstructions of actual experiences from their past; at other times they may seem to anticipate possible, often desired or feared, future experiences. But what is highly interesting is how a voice evokes such mental imagery.

You could pick up different singers and analyse what each voice means to you. Every voice holds a different meaning, brings out different emotions and perhaps draws a very different mental image of the person; which again connects back to the perceptual experience we already spoke about. Why just singers, you could close your eyes and think of any voice that has created an impact on you and a mental image will immediately spring up.

When I spoke to Desh (my husband) for the first time on the phone, his deep baritone voice made me fall in love with him at that very instant. It was almost like ‘love at first sound.’ Perhaps women prefer men with deeper voices and his voice tickled a part of me which did not know that love for such a voice existed in my mind; such that I would embrace it for life. Can you imagine what a voice can do apart from painting pictures in your head!? Have you had any such experiences?

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